In the modern day search for the silver bullet of effective PR and marketing communications, there’s a risk of trusting the latest fad or tool to get a message across.
Just by being on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ armed with blog content, white papers, e-books, infographics – or any manner of content contrived to drive a faceless audience into a frenzy of commercial consumption – doesn’t mean that PR or marketing communications have happened, incited an emotion, an intellectual leap, or will even be remembered in five minutes’ time.
Often, the missing link – in the PR and marketing communications quest for understanding and favour – is that most basic of tools: language.
Website, Leadership Now, has a great selection of quotes about the power of good communication, and the common thread is the importance of using the right language in order to be understood and to avoid confusion. One quote plucked from Mark Twain says that: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug” while another from James Thurber notes: “Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.”
As the quotes clearly show, we can trust writers to care about the power of language. But what on God’s green earth does this matter to business? Well, everything.
One successful businessman I know puts much of his success down to one thing: being memorable. It’s not an idle boast; after one meeting with him, potential customers can’t fail to remember his unique character and outlook on life. Equally, a lot of his memorability is about the language he uses.
Mark Forsyth, writer of The Elements of Eloquence, a new book about the ancient Greek concept of rhetoric – the art of persuasive speaking or writing – says that our world has “become full of pithy phrases”. But this is nothing new: Shakespeare learned the Greek’s rhetoric lessons and created some of the most memorable phrases in the English language. Forsyth in his book has analysed the way in which the techniques of rhetoric can make for much more memorable lines, whether spoken or written, and he can be heard explaining his theories on yesterday’s BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
But you don’t necessarily need to know that the rhetorical technique of chiasmus enabled JFK to say: “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” You only need to know it’s brilliant and memorable.
So, if you are creating PR and marketing communications content – the success of which hinges on the effectiveness of the language chosen – accept nothing less than the most memorable words. After all, you’re trusting them to carry your meaning and your message.